What is the American Community Survey and why do I have to take it?

Has the honor of receiving, and the requirement to complete, this wonderfully personal 28 page survey and its corresponding literatures been bestowed up any of you readers yet?

The American Community Survey is a survey that is sent to 250,000 homes each month by the Department of Commerce and the US Census Bureau.

This is NOT the US Census that comes every ten years (which makes the next census due in 2010). This is a survey that is not anonymous; it requires not only your name, but you address, phone numbers, birth date, gender, race, ethnicity (yes, both) and more, just on the first two pages. It then asks for the same information for each of the persons living in the house with you.

About two weeks ago, on March 19th 2008, when I first received notice from the US Census Director by mail that I would have the pleasure of partaking in the survey, I didn’t think much of it. I assumed it was the actual Census b/c it came from the Census Bureau, and tossed the notice.

I received the American Community Survey on March 26th and with my hectic life and children’s lives, I did not get a chance to open it until the afternoon of the 29th.

I started to fill out the information and stopped when I realized that it was going to be specific to me and not going to be anonymous… The questions were invasive, and the wording in the “guide”, FAQ pamphlet, and the included form letter from Charles Louis Kincannon, Director of the US Census Bureau, really began to upset me.

The front of the envelope that the ACS came in stated in bold letter “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW“. That alone put me off a little. I understand civil duty; I understand jury duty; I understand the need for the census and why it is required; I do NOT understand why this information they are asking for is required. I began to read the corresponding pamphlets that I had ignored.

In the FAQ pamphlet it asked “Do I have to answer the questions on the American Community Survey?” The Answer was “Yes, your response to this survey is required by law (Title 13 United States Code, Sections 141 and 193). Title 13 as changed by Title 18, imposes a penalty for not responding. The survey is approved by the Office of Management and Budget. We estimate this survey will take 38 minutes to complete.”

There is no way in hell that the information they want will take me less than 38 minutes to find and write down. I don’t know off the top of my head what my business sales from this past year or month were. I don’t know what my home value is, what I have left on my mortgage, what type of health insurance I have, what I have taken in public assistance in the last year, what my property taxes, flood insurance, month electric bill, water bill, gas bill are. How many miles my office is from my home, what time I leave, what time I return, not to mention the same for my spouse and children… Just digging out my files and looking this information up will take me the better part of an hour.

I opened the “Guide” for the survey, hoping to find out if I was able just to fill in the number of people in my household and that be it. Again it states that I am required to fill out all questions asked in the survey.

When I read the article they use as “law” I can be fines $500 a question for incorrect answers. . . the fine for not filling it out at all, was only $100.

My husband was not home at the time so I called my mother-in-law to get her perspective on the survey and to see if she had ever received one. She had not, and said she would “never receive” it.

I jumped on google, and began looking up different people’s experiences on this survey. I am appalled at the waste of tax payers resources, harassment, and invasion of privacy that this survey is causing.

www.checkpointusa.org/Census/Census.htm#documents is a great site with different links, both government links and blogs, about the survey.

So my question to all of you is, What happened to you when you didn’t fill it out and ignored the mailings?

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    cathy said,

    I had the usual 2 survey mailings and reminder cards. Phone calls started the second month. I unpluged the phone, leaving the caller ID on. 3rd month the visits started. Had notes left and a few phone calls from 1 field rep. Also had a letter from the local CB office introducing my rep. Had a 2nd rep arrive when the 1st had no luck with me. Phone calls and rep visits ramp up towards the end. Shortly after the harassment stopped, I received a voluntary postal survey. Didn’t return that either. Since my 90 days of contact with the CB ended, I have heard nothing from them.

  2. 2

    Lazarus said,

    Month 1: I got the usual pre-survey letter informing me that the ACS would be coming. Got the first copy of the survey. A few weeks later another, sterner letter informing me of the nature of the survey and then a second survey. My only response was to insert a protest letter in the first return envelope, I did not include the survey as it is coded for your exact address, but the return envelope is not.

    Month 2: 1st week, Saturday morning phone call from a nice guy and I told him what I thought of the questions and that I would not participate. He tried to sell me on the ‘it’s for the schools, etc’ sales pitch. I told him I knew he had a hard job but I would not participate. He had been trained for the average phone call but I had read up on the ACS extensively and he couldn’t really counter my arguements. A couple other messages on the answering machine. The second Saturday another call from a woman. I was not nice and told her I had already refused the lst caller. She tried the “it’s mandatory” on me and I blew up and told her the threat of a fine was bogus and that she wouldn’t and couldn’t get permission to fine me. She sounded horrified and made a point to say that she never mentioned any fine and that she would just mark me down as refused, thank you. All calls have ceased and that was 2 weeks ago.

    Month 3: Starts next week. I am 300 miles from their Seattle office. I expect 1 contact attempt, on a Saturday. If so, I will video the encounter with my hot, new cell phone. I will try to be calm, yet firm. I expect that they are not going to want to talk on camera. Maybe they won’t even come. If I’m not home and the Viking Warrior Goddess answers the door they will like it even less.


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